sports direct
Sports Direct's controversial boss, Mike Ashley

It seems there are more difficult times ahead for troubled retailer Sports Direct (LON:SPD), after The Guardian reported two of its biggest investors were selling their stakes in the company.

The newspaper reported on Friday that Sports Direct’s biggest investor, Standard Life, had sold its entire stake in the business. The sale is rumoured to be due to problems with the company’s corporate governance, with Sports Direct’s infamous CEO Mike Ashley rarely out of the news for his behaviour.

The Guardian also reported that major stakeholder Aviva had also sold down its stake in the company, with the two sales representing the general mood of Sports Direct’s investors.

Several others have expressed concerns over the dominance of Ashley, the firm’s excessive pay rewards, and poor treatment of workers, with one fund management firm telling The Guardian: “We are concerned about the direction of travel at the firm and what will happen next.”

Euan Stirling, head of stewardship and Environmental, Social and Governance Investment at Standard Life Investments, said in a statement at Sports Direct’s AGM last year: “We are longstanding shareholders in the company and have engaged with senior executives and non-executives over many years, sadly to little effect. The responses to our enquiries have been either unconvincing or non-existent.”

Sports Direct was recently the subject of an investigation after conditions at its warehouses were likened to that of a ‘Victorian workhouse’. Sports Direct shares sunk in the wake of the investigation, but have since risen again on strong trading performance.

Shares in the company are currently trading down 0.63 percent at 393.00 (1046GMT).